HC Deb 09 May 1973 vol 856 cc483-5
24. Mr. Ronald Bell

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will now make representations to the French Government in support of the Australian and New Zealand Governments' objections to proposed French nuclear tests in the Pacific Ocean.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

I have nothing to add to what I told the House on 2nd May in reply to a Question by the hon. Member for Salford East (Mr. Frank Allaun).—[Vol. 855, c. 1249–52.]

Mr. Bell

Although our general attitude to atomic tests has been made known to the French Government, have we not quite a special relationship and obligation to Australia and New Zealand which should make us zealous to espouse their cause whenever we can? Would it not be unfortunate if, after acceding to the European Economic Community, we seemed to subordinate the special interests of the British overseas for fear of offending the French?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

I would not consider doing that. But I have often made clear to the French what my hon. and learned Friend describes as the general attitude to these tests in the atmosphere. I said the other day that we hoped these tests would not be held.

Mr. John Mendelson

For the first time since 1st January, the Government now have a special opportunity, in view of the forthcoming visit by the Prime Minister to President Pompidou. Is it not now the duty of the Prune Minister to act as the spokesman of the Commonwealth countries which feel so very deeply about this matter? Would it not help generally if the right hon. Gentleman gave an assurance that the Prime Minister would act as a joint spokesman?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

No doubt the Prime Minister and President Pompidou will talk about many questions, but I must remind the hon. Gentleman that Australia and New Zealand are independent Commonwealth countries. We do not speak for them.

Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

Does not my right hon. Friend agree that the need for these tests would be obviated if France were treated as an equal ally of the United States on the same basis as we are, which could be done without any infringement of the non-proliferation agreement?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

It would depend whether the French were willing to enter into a system of testing atomic weapons with the United States.

Mr. Frederick Lee

Although Australia and New Zealand are independent countries, does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that the Samoans, the New Hebrideans and the Gilbertese are far more dependent on us than Australia and New Zealand can be, and that we have special obligations to them? Will the Government now discharge those obligations?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

Yes. We monitor these tests in the interests of those places. They have not asked us to protest to the French.

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